This week, I’m so pleased to welcome author Marie Laval with a guest post for the blog. I’ve met Marie a couple of times, and she’s a lovely lady! I read her contemporary romance A Spell in Provence earlier this year and can thoroughly recommend it – but today, we’re celebrating the release of her historical romance Angel Heart from Accent Press. Before I pass you on to Marie, here’s the fabulous cover and the blurb to tempt you.
A mysterious Templar relic.
A web of intrigue and lies.
A woman about to lose her heart.
Marie-Ange, the young widow of an English officer, accepts an inheritance in France only to find that everything in Beauregard is not as it seems. Why is the sinister Malleval so obsessed with her family? What exactly is this mysterious Templar Cross he believes Marie-Ange can lead him to? And could her darling husband Christopher still be alive?
Marie-Ange finds herself trapped in a dangerous web of lies, political intrigue and mystical possession, and the only person to whom she can turn for help is Captain Hugo Saintclair. Yet the enigmatic Hugo represents a danger of a different kind …
ANGEL HEART is a lavish mix of romance, adventure and a hint of the supernatural, largely set in France against the turbulent background of Napoleon’s return from Elba and his ultimate defeat at Waterloo.
And now I’m going to hand you over to Marie so she can tell you about the fascinating history behind Angel Heart …
Mixing history and fantasy: ANGEL HEART and the treasure of the Knights Templar
by Marie Laval
I’m not the first author, and I certainly won’t be the last, to be fascinated by the history of the Knights Templar and to find inspiration in their troubled, secretive and dramatic past which to this day has been the source of so many tales and myths.
In ANGEL HEART my heroine Marie-Ange must recover a sacred relic hidden by the Knights Templar – the Cross of Life – which is rumored to give eternal life. With the help of cuirassier captain Hugo Saintclair, she unravels an old family mystery linked to the legendary Count Saint Germain, a man reputed immortal, and returns the cross to its original hiding place in the crypt of the chateau of Arginy in Saône-et-Loire, to the North of Lyon, my home town. Whereas the Cross of Life is my invention, I have interwoven myths and historical facts about the Knights Templar and places linked to their Order.
The Knights Templar, also know as the Poor Fellow-soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, was a monastic order founded in 1118 to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land, defend the Saint-Sepulcher and fight in the Crusades. The Order grew rapidly in power and wealth and the Knights Templar, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. They managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, acquired vast estates, became the French King’s bankers and built fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.
The Templars’ existence was tied closely to the Crusades and when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order faded, and rumours that they indulged in heresy and devil-worshiping grew rife. In 1307, as he found himself deeply indebted to the Order, Philipe IV of France – also known as Philipe le Bel – decided to have most of their members in France arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then executed. Under pressure from the French King, Pope Clement V disbanded the Order in 1312. The abrupt disappearance of the Order gave rise to speculation and legends.
One of them stems from the curse issued by the last Great Master, Jacques de Molay, against the Pope and the French King. As he was being burned at the stake, he predicted that the Pope would die within forty days, foretold the French King’s imminent death and cursed all his descendents for the next thirteen generations. The Pope died three weeks later, Philippe le Bel eight months later. Some claim that the execution of King Louis XVI in 1792 put an end to the Templar malediction on the royal family, since Louis was the 13th generation of the Capet line.
King Philipe’s actions against the Templars did not make him a wealthy man since only a fraction of the Templar rumoured vast treasure was ever recovered. Perhaps it was because, forewarned of their imminent demise, the Templar Knights arranged for their treasure to be shipped away – to Scotland or Cyprus – or transported to a secret location, like the chateau of Arginy in the Beaujolais or Gisors in Normandy.
In ANGEL HEART I chose to make the chateau of Arginy the treasure’s hiding place. Arginy is a fascinating place. It was built on an ancient Roman salt mine in the 11th century, then extended in the 16th century. With its three towers and a dungeon, its moat and two draw bridges, it looks imposing and mysterious, even to this day. Its tallest tower is named the ‘Tower of Eight Beatitudes’ and had internal walls covered with alchemic symbols. Between the 13th and the 15th centuries the chateau was owned by members of the powerful Beaujeu family, the family of the man who was the 21st Grand Templar Master between 1273 to 1291, Guillaume de Beaujeu.
A few nights before his execution, Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master, called his nephew Guichard de Beaujeu to his jail in Paris for a final meeting. Nobody knows what they talked about but a few days after Molay’s execution, Guichard asked King Philippe for the permission to remove the coffin of his ancestor Guillaume from the crypt in the Paris Temple to the chateau at Arginy. What was in that coffin? Beaujeu’s remains only or the Templar treasure that Jacques de Molay had asked his nephew to keep safe?
So the legend was born…Ever since the 16th century, many treasure hunters tried their luck at Arginy, and every time there was a mortal accident or tales of ‘diabolical’ goings-on. People soon believed that the chateau was cursed. In the 1950s the chateau’s then owner, Jacques de Rosemont, called in a team of occultists who decreed that the Templar treasure was indeed hidden in the crypt at Arginy, and was guarded by the ghosts of eleven Templar Knights.
The chateau is still privately owned to this day, but nobody has been looking for the treasure for a while…
With such a history, it’s no wonder that Arginy plays such an important part in ANGEL HEART. There are however other places that I absolutely loved to research, including the village of Malleval in the Pilat mountains South of Lyon, which was linked to sorcery, esoteric societies and bandits, and of course my home town of Lyon. But these will have to wait for another post!
A final word about the Knights Templar…The Knights Hospitaller – or Knights of Saint John – who were founded at around the same time as the Knights Templar to care for sick and injured pilgrims, still exist today. They are now a charitable organization based in Rome.
Thank you so much for the interesting post, Marie!
Angel Heart can be purchased both as an ebook and paperback at these links:
Another historical romance from Marie, THE LION’S EMBRACE, is being released on Thursday 6th August by Accent Press.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie Laval has lived in the lovely Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for the past few years. Although she would love to spend all her days dreaming up romantic stories, she works as a teacher in a secondary school, which keeps her both busy and down-to-earth. Her first contemporary romantic suspense, A SPELL IN PROVENCE, was published by Accent Press earlier this year. She also writes historical romances with a strong link to France and French history. ANGEL HEART, THE LION’S EMBRACE and DANCING FOR THE DEVIL, are being released by Accent Press this summer.